Island Wineries

This is a repeat post from 2016 but with summer on the doorstep it seemed worth repeating.

Forget the Okanogan. forget Napa. We have our very own wine valley right here on the island. The Cowichan Valley. We have made a tour of many of the wineries 4 times in the past couple of years and enjoyed it every time. You can easily do it in a day and include a winery lunch too. It’s a great way to entertain visitors too

We start at AVERILL CREEK Vineyard on the north side of Duncan. Take a right off of #1 at Somenos Road and follow it for 2 or 3 kilometres until you see the Averill Creek sign. Our first visit was quite a surprise. We were not expecting such a large facility. A modern building with a spacious tasting room and a delightful picnic area outside. A bonus is the spectacular view of Cowichan Bay. If you wish, you can purchase cheese and crackers, a cold white wine and relax on the patio.

The wines here are really very good.Try the Pinot Gris or the sparkling Charme De L’ile. Friends from Ontario had a case  of Averill Creek wine shipped home they enjoyed it so much. Their wine is available at SaveOn in Parksville.

Nearby is The Deol Estate Winery, a small funky joint. We have had a great tasting here offered by a very enthusiatic lady. Worth a stop if you have time.
There are a couple of lunch options on a day tour. One is Vinoteca Zanatta, the oldest winery in the area. The food here is excellent and weather permitting is served outside on a big wrap around porch of the 1903 Zanatta Farmhouse. The chef is a gal from Mozambique, Fatima DaSilva. Go figure! I guarantee you will enjoy the food here. One of the anomalies here is that while noshing in a vineyard, you may see loaded logging trucks going by.

We Have not done a tasting here as the tasting room is very small and often crowded. Reservations for lunch are recommended. Zanatta is just south of Duncan on Marshall Road.

Another worthwhile stop is Blue Grouse Winery on Lakeside Road not far from Zanatta. A really impressive building that reportedly cost a couple of million dollars contains a very spacious tasting room. No restaurant here but a generous tasting experience of some very drinkable wines. I like the ORTEGA and the PINOT GRIS. You will want to take a bottle home from here.

In Cobble Hill, between Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake are two must visits. The MERRIVALE CIDERY is an impressive facility with a tasting room, gift shop, and a very large restaurant. We have not yet eaten here but the menu looks inviting. There is also a Bakery and Deli.

In addition to a range of Ciders, Cowichan Gin and Cowichan Vodka are produced here. I bought a bottle of the Gin on our last visit. Is it good? Yes it is  our good friend Joan likes gin and pronounced Cowichan Gin as excellent!

Merrivale’s grounds are impressive and special events like weddings are popular here.

Just a skip down the road is UNSWORTH Vineyards. Another must stop. Although quite new, Unsworth is already producing some nice wines. We have slurped their Pinot Gris, Rose, and Pinot Noir. Spend some time in the tasting room, a separate building beside a pond, waterfall and patio. Since they are into marketing there is an assortment of stuff to buy.

Across the parking lot a restored vintage home contains the restaurant. Great food. The Burger is outstanding and the Moules Frittes looks fabulous. Great service inside or on the patio. You don’t want to miss this winery. Reservations for sure.
Just one more. Rocky Creek Winery is a small place with a tasting room in the basement of a home. Excellent tastings every time we visited. We first visited because we had tried their Pinot Gris at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Victoria. The Pinot Gris is good and the Robin’s Rose is perfect on a summer afternoon on the patio. We always take some home from here.

There are several other wineries one can visit, but in one day that’s enough. Most of them are not open in the winter so it’s a summer / early fall event if you want to partake. Weekdays are less busy and most are open Wednesday to Sunday.

Google maps has all the wineries in the area marked.

Just saying…

Busy Ports

Although more than half of BC residents support the new pipeline there is certainly some resistance to it and to the increased tanker traffic in BC waters. My opinion is that the hysteria over Tankers is rather overstated. 

Currently, about 3500 deep sea ships visit Vancouver annually. That includes freighters, container ships, car carriers, bulk carriers, Cruise ships and tankers. That is about 9 ships per day.  The Port of Vancouver estimate that will increase to 12 ships per day by 2026. Of that total are about two oil tankers per week or 100 plus per year. 

In addition ships also stop at Port Melon, Nanaimo, Crofton, Chemainus and Victoria.  At any given time there can be as many as 65 deep sea ships on the southern coast. Today, there are about 60, 2 of which are oil tankers

Total in and out of southern BC waters is about 7000 per year. Almost all theses ships pass through Haro Strait a narrow channel between the Gulf Islands,  Vancouver Island and the San Juan Islands in Washington State. The narrowest point is between Turn Point on Stuart Island and South Pender Island just over a mile. 


In my lifetime, I don’t recall there ever has been a collision or a grounding of a deep sea ship in this area. 

The big tankers are now accompanied by large powerful tugs from the terminal in Burnaby to Race Rocks past Victoria. The tankers are required have two pilots on board, two officers on the bridge with at least two crew as well. For a great article on how the tugs assist the tankers go to…

In recent memory there have been only two serious incidents involving deep sea ships in our waters. In 1979 a tanker collided with the Second  Narrows Rail Bridge in dense fog. In 1970 a Russian freighter collided with a BC Ferry in Active Pass. Freighters no longer use that pass and tankers transiting First Narrows have tug escorts. 

While you might think 7000 ship movements is a lot for one port consider that the port of  Singapore has 260,000 ship arrivals and departures per year. Today, April 28, there are 1452 deep sea ships in Singapore Harbour.  Every day 700 or more ships arrive or depart.  Several years ago we enjoyed an afternoon cruise around this harbour. The number of ships is amazing to see. Whereas ships coming into Vancouver are required to use a pilot from the BC Pilotage Authority, a Pilot is not a requirement in Singapore. Of the fleet of ships at least a third are oil tankers. Singapore is the largest ship refuelling port in the world. Below is part of Singapore Harbour today, the red squares are oil tankers. The green are freighters  



 Do they have collisions and oil spills?  Occasionally, but considering the enormous volume of ship movements very few. There was a spill in 1972, 1975, 1987, 1996, 2000, 2010, 2014, 2017. Some of those were caused  ships  running aground  and some the result of collisions. 

Considering the numbers of tankers it is surprising there are not more spills. Singapore seems to have an excellent spill response protocol.

Another busy shipping area is the English Channel where 182,000 ships transit every year with rarely an incident. Of that total about 50,000 are oil tankers. Rarely is there a serious incident in the channel despite rather extraordinary volume of traffic  

Here are some interesting statistics on oil spills world wide.

So considering other much busier ports around the world the traffic in BC waters is rather small. With the safety measures in place, with the use of pilots, with compulsory double hulls for tankers, with the modern navigation aids including radar, GPS, AIS, Chart plotters etc., ship traffic in and out of Vancouver should remain as safe as it has been for decades. 

Just saying…

Ships & Tankers in BC Waters

Although many British Columbians are aware that Vancouver is a  busy port, few really know the magnitude of the port activities. 

Today, April 16, all of the moorage spaces in English Bay are full. 15 freighters and one tanker are waiting to load or unload cargo. In Burrard Inlet there are 4 ships at anchor and 13 at the various docks. There is one tanker at the terminal in Burnaby. 3 more  freighters are  inbound between Victoria and Vancouver. Another is docked at Ogden Point in Victoria and 2 more at anchor off Esquimalt. 

13 more are anchored in various spots in the Gulf Islands. And 5 more are anchored in Nanaimo. 4 more up up the Fraser. And 3 tied up at Roberts Bank. One more loading pulp at Port Melon. In total there are 63 cargo ships of one sort or another loading unloading or waiting for same. 

Some are loading coal, potash, grain, oil,  pulp,  Others are unloading vehicles, General cargo including food, clothing, hardware, etc. 

All these ships are diesel powered and all are carrying large quantities of diesel or bunker oil. How much do they carry? See below. 

  • Small tugboat (30–60 feet): 1,500–25,000 gallons
  • Ocean-going tugboat (90–150 feet): 90,000–190,000 gallons
  • Puget Sound jumbo ferry (440 feet): 130,000 gallons
  • Bulk carrier of commodities such as grain or coal (500–700 feet): 400,000–800,000 gallons
  • Large cruise ship (900–1,100 feet): 1–2 million gallons
  • Inland tank barge (200–300 feet): 400,000–1.2 million gallons
  • Panamax container ship that passes through the Panama Canal (960 feet): 1.5–2 million gallon
  • Ocean-going tank barge (550–750 feet): 7 million–14 million gallons 
  • Large oil tankers (987 feet): 55 Million gallons ( this is the type of tankers that go into Ferndale and Anacortes in Washington State)

So today there could be as much as or more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel floating around in our waters. Since approximately 3500 deep sea ships visit here each year that means 7000 or so transits of Haro Strait near Sidney. Which equates to something like 1 – 2 BILLION gallons of fuel moving through Haro Strait annually. 

What damage that could do to our environment! But it doesn’t. It’s safe. Our BC Pilotage Authority Pilots do a wonderful job of ensuring that these vessels are moved, anchored and docked safely. Every day, every month, year after year. 

The anti tanker hysteria is not reality.


Just saying…

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